Counterfeit Drugs and Internet Smarts
November 23, 2009
Wall Street Journal
By Roger Bate
More public education would help stem the problem of fake pharmaceuticals—restricting Internet trade would not. Whatever happened to caveat emptor? Consumers are indeed put at serious risk when they buy counterfeit drugs over the Internet. But sweeping restrictions on Web-based drug sales stand to worsen their ills.
The problem is getting worse. Take Britain, which has Europe's worst problem with H1N1 or 'swine' flu, with around 64,000 new cases every week and 182 deaths—about a third of Europe's total fatalities. The flu's pandemic status has scared many people into stockpiling the two key antiviral drugs, Roche's Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza. Manufacturers have increased supply, but couldn't keep pace with soaring demand. To fill the gap, criminal gangs have sold fake versions over the Internet, defrauding millions of dollars and endangering lives. For while H1N1 thankfully has a low fatality rate, poorly-made drugs—many produced in filthy conditions in India, China and Russia—could be far more lethal. Read more